Basics of Bomb Sniffing Dogs


German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are the most common breeds trained to become bomb-sniffing dogs. Their intelligence, keen sense of smell and ability to be easily trained make them ideal candidates for the position.

These two breeds have the ability to detect trace amounts of odor from explosive substances that man alone cannot, are trained to detect and react to different kinds of explosive odors and are able to track explosive devices in any form of concealment (Phillips, 1971).

Where They Work

Bomb sniffing dogs are employed in airports, banks, trains, post offices, and sports stadiums (Levine, 2013). These canines may also accompany our armed services on deployments and participate in security sweeps before a major event or in preparation for an arrival of a prominent figure such as our president.

My husband, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician in the Marine Corps, had the opportunity to work with a German Shepherd while in Iraq in 2007. The German Shepherd was given samples of homemade explosives to train with that may have been buried in the ground. When on a call its handler would let the dog off its leash and signal the dog in the direction of a suspected explosive device.

How They’re Chosen

Eligible candidates are between twelve and eighteen months, are healthy, highly responsive, friendly and non-aggressive. They must know basic skills our own canines do such as “come”, “sit” and “heel.”

How They’re Trained

There is not one main training location, however the military and TSA send their canines to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas (Ainsworth, N.d.).

These bomb squad dogs are trained on the praise and reward system much like our own canine pets.  In the military a trainee is rewarded with a treat after it sniffs a sample presented by their handler, locates a hidden explosive and finds a sample hidden out of sight (Ainsworth, N.d).

When a bomb squad dog locates an explosive while on the job they are trained to sit, but not to touch any located device or substance because of the material’s sensitivity.

Fun Fact: In the military a bomb-sniffing dog holds a rank above their handlers.

Canines are truly fascinating animals with abilities that go far beyond being great at playing frisbee and fetch. If you’d like learn more about how these fabulous canines are trained visit this website.


Ainsworth, K. (N.d.) Bomb-sniffing dogs: the forgotten heroes of boston. Retrieved from

Levine, J. (2013, July). The education of a bomb dog. Retrieved February 7th, 2014 from

Phillips, R. (1971, Oct.). Training dogs for explosive detection. Retrieved February 7th, 2014 from